30 June 2017

Madeline, Second Prize, Mansion Story Reading: “…I Sing Base Dis Time”

When Madeline was about eleven years old she lived in an orphanage in the Bronx Borough of New York City with thirty other children. The kids were four to eighteen years old and at the other end of her building were sixty senior citizens.

"One of the things I remember is that some of them would come to entertain us. One group was four men who spoke German and had white whiskered bears and handlebar moustaches. They sang as a quartet in German. Their serious faces and hand gestures were what was so funny as they sang.

Their curled pressed lips and dramatic delivery was enough to make anyone cry. During the performance of all of the kids we would stay cool, calm and collected.

But afterwards we would return to our dormitories and would act out their singing and imitate them in the washroom. We would say to each other "you sing Base Dis Time, I Sang Base Last Time." Some of us were very good at the acting, and what fun we had. We would laugh so hard that sometimes I wet my pants."

The story readings were special, so was the July Fourth Celebration. Everyone had something made for them or addressed to them and an angel from the Army Of Good bought $200 worth of cookies that were much enjoyed. Others sent flowers and Fourth of July gift bags.

I was conscious as I watched the residents listen carefully to one another's stories that our elected officials are debating cutting back the Medicaid payments that pay for their care at the Mansion. I hope this never happens to them.

Thanks for supporting the Mansion stories, I will get to work getting these stories published. Thanks to the Army Of Good for another great victory. It is better to do good than argue about what is good.

Posted in General

Peg’s Story, Mansion Story Reading, Fourth Place. “I Miss Him Dearly…”

Peg's Short Story, Fourth Place

Peggie meet her husband when she was 18, it was at her aunt's house and they fell in love at first sight. One of their first dates was to see Elvis Presley's movie "Love Me Tender." They were married on  December 16, she recalls, at her mother's house. She wore a skirt and a blouse.

When she told me she talks to her husband every day, I suggested she write a story about it, and she eagerly agreed. Here is an excerpt from her story. She won Fourth Place.

"We had a good marriage and we had six children together. I love them all. In 2008 he passed away on August 29. I miss him dearly. All the time I sit and think about him and the fun we had together. Sometimes I sit and talk to his spirit in my room here at the Mansion. He says to me, "how are you doing?" And I say "I am doing fine." We talk about the old times we shared together. He tells me he misses me too. He asks me about our dog named Bear and I tell him that he died. He asks me how I like the place I am living in and I tell him it is okay. I like living in a place where I don't have to worry about cooking and I enjoy the food here. They take good care of me and I don't have to worry about my medicine."

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Joan, Third Place, Mansion Story Reading: “I Wouldn’t Let It Kill Me…”

"I Wouldn't Let It Kill Me..'

I admit to being surprised by the depth and honesty and poignancy of the Mansion stories, many came from people with severe health problems and some had memory issues to fight through. They were determined to tell their stories, I told them they were their stories.

I see that is true.

Joan's story was short. I didn't need to touch a word of it.

She wrote about her life in the Adirondacks, she was married and had a daughter. When her daughter was 18 years old she had a boyfriend who was "not very nice."

"I told her I didn't like him but as kids will be kids she did not listen.

We had our truck with the wooden racks on the hill behind the house where my husband and I were picking berries. I was heading back to the house when I heard a sharp noise. Her boyfriend had killed her on the steps to the house. He had wanted her to run away with him and when she refused he had shot her.

My husband died from the grief about a year later. I said to myself I would never let that happen to me. You have to focus on the good stuff like the people who come to visit and help. I wouldn't let it kill me too."

The people in the room, busy celebrating the Fourth of July with your wonderful gifts, were quiet, but they all recovered and applauded Joan.

I know Joan well. Sometimes when I come to the Mansion in the morning, she is waiting at the door with her bags backed. "I'm going home" she will say. "Someone is coming to pick me up."

Me or the staff or a friend will suggest a cup of tea or walk down the hall, and she comes along and a few minutes later has happily returned to the life of the Mansion, back in her room or talking walks on the grounds. Her bags go back into her room – the bags are always packed there.

Then she is content in her life and routines, she is much loved there, she speaks gently and softly, but if you look in her eyes, you see there is so much going on. She won third prize in the Mansion Story Reading Friday.

I especially loved her determination to live past her  grief and loss.

Posted in General

The Mansion Stories: Life, Love, Loss, Memories…

Life, Loss, Love, Memories

The Mansion residents presented their stories in the big room this afternoon, they created 14 striking, poignant and powerful stories of their lives and shared them with the other residents. Julie Smith, the activities director, and I read most of them, some of the residents read their own.

I told the Mansion residents when we started this that their stories were important, and needed to be heard. They were their connection to their lives. Many agreed, and I will seek to get these published in saleable pamphlet form and also published online and sold as e-books.
The backdrop was the Fourth Of July celebration, made possible by the buttons, letters, personalized place settings, ribbons, placemats, cars, photos, cookies and flowers, along with flashing red white and blue lights sent by the Army Of Good. Another holiday turned bright thanks to you.

Your generosity has turned the holidays from day into night, they are so looked forward to by the residents.

I judged the story contest, along with Maria and Julie. We chose Robert as the first place winner for his ironic and surprising story about how he and his wife Shirley – she is also at the Mansion – moved out of their home and moved into a big Mansion with large windows, numerous fireplaces, drivers to take them places, and twenty-five fireplaces to keep warm.

"We also have a chauffeur and two vehicles to take us to doctor's appointments," he wrote…"I now own a golf cart to tour our grounds because because walking is difficult for me." He was fortunate, he said, to move into such a grand place and have so many good people care for him, and to live in such a lovely home in his retirement."

It took a minute for everyone to realize Robert, a former builder who chose to move into the Mansion to be with his wife, was talking about the Mansion, everyone clapped and laughed.

Robert and Shirley are newcomers to the Mansion, the only married couple living there together. I am just getting to know them, Robert has a wicked sense of humor and a beautiful perspective, I appreciate getting to know him. He loves to get letters.  You can write him at The Mansion, 11 S. Union Street, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

He and Shirley are passionate dog lovers, they are especially attached to Red.

Stories are sacred to me, they are my life. They are especially important to the Mansion residents, their stories are their identity, they are so important, and they need to be told and heard. Sometimes I hear them tell me that their lives have been forgotten by the world.

Even the ribbons were sent by the Army Of Good. I'll also post the other winners and get busy getting this book published.

Posted in General

Poor Red. Maybe He Is A Saint

Poor Red

Gus tortures Red almost systematically. He chews on h is claws, jumps up to lick his face and nibble on his nose, sometimes he tries to climb on Red's back I think he wants to take a nap  up there where it is soft and warm. He also grab's Red's tail and tries to play tug of war with.

These are things that could get a tiny puppy maimed or eaten, but Red is saintly, if he is egregiously provoked he barks once and Gus flees, but otherwise, he just sighs and accepts this torment as a facet of life. Red is all good, and all heart. And Gus is lucky to have a patient big brother like that. Fate wants nothing much to do with him, and he doesn't try any of that with her.

Posted in General